There are many different approaches to therapy. This can make it difficult to determine what therapeutic modality is right for you.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy may be right for you if:
- You have trouble coping with stress.
- You have a difficult time managing your emotions.
- You are struggling to make changes in your behavior but are unable to do so.
- You have difficulty advocating for yourself and give in too easily to the demands of others.
Marsha Linehan, the founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, once said that we all want to “create a life worth living.” I like to think about it as creating a life more worth loving. Either way, DBT can help you create that life.
How Can I Create A “Life Worth Loving?”
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is broken down into four components: Mindfulness, Emotional Regulation, Distress Tolerance, and Interpersonal Effectiveness. The belief is that trouble regulating one’s emotions, dealing with stress, and navigating relationships are at the core of one’s unhappiness. This can be what creates the struggle discussed above.
Let’s Break It Down:
The basic principle of DBT is learning to acknowledge and accept one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. This can be achieved through mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being present in day-to-day life. Oftentimes, people worry about what will happen in the future or they fixate on regrets of the past. This can increase stress and lower one’s tolerance for negative emotions. Through the process of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), one can learn how to be mindful, thus mastering the skills that are needed in order to manage stress and negative emotions. Emotional Regulation, Distress Tolerance, and Interpersonal Effectiveness are the other essential components of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The skills are broken down more specifically, helping you gain concrete strategies that you can use to make real changes in your life.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is based on the belief that that behaviors develop due to prior conditioning from the environment. That is, people’s experiences (i.e. their environments) lead them to develop certain thought patterns, and their behaviors are then based on these thought patterns. Oftentimes, people can develop beliefs that are irrational. However, they hold onto them as fact and act in accordance with these beliefs. Therefore, behavior is not necessarily being dictated by rational thought. This can lead to stress and negative emotions. By changing these core irrational thoughts, people can change their unwanted behaviors, thereby allowing them to lead happier lives.
CBT vs. DBT
DBT falls under the umbrella of CBT. CBT is about developing awareness for thought patterns and how they influence one’s emotional state. The goal is to discover and recognize one’s negative and irrational thinking patterns and then challenge them. By doing so, one can create healthy, rational thought patterns, thereby changing behaviors. DBT agrees with this idea but has a more specific focus. The core of DBT is validation. The goal is to help a person accept his/her uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and behaviors rather than struggle with them. Once this happens, a person can then work on changing his/her internal dialogue to one that is more positive and self-empowering.
In my practice, I put more focus on DBT skills but bring in CBT techniques as well, based on the needs of the individual.